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February 3, 2014: Horse Care: An Animal Advocate Speaks

I’m not an animal rights activist. Rather, I’m an animal advocate. The former denotes a high degree of concern and a specific level of expertise in the area of animal rights; this includes legal ins and outs. The latter denotes a high degree of concern and a specific lack of expertise in the area of animal rights; this includes legal ins and outs.

I suspect that many animal rights activists enjoy going to court and duking it out with neglectful and abusive animal owners. And I suspect that many animal advocates hate going to court and duking it out with neglectful and abusive animal owners.

In all respects thus defined, I am an animal advocate. I will, when push comes to shove, call other’s actions into question if I see that animals are suffering the consequences of their ineptitude because this is the right thing to do. But I sure don’t relish or look forward to doing it. I suppose that my having to do this every so often is an inevitability because I know what constitutes good and bad animal care.

If I had my druthers, I’d much rather be spending my time with my own wonderful animals. For example, this morning I took the dogs for a long and glorious trek up and down the bench trail. It had been hard packed by innumerable snowmobiles, so it was like walking on the moon. The dogs ranged far, but were always in sight. I took great joy in watching them because they were dogs getting to be dogs. Tails up, noses down, they were having a wonderful time. Later, Pete and I took all four horses out. Pete had spread a lot of sand on the driveway, making it possible to get Hrimfara to and from the road. The horse trails are now pot holed, but still negotiable. Hrimmi ranged far, but was always in sight. I took great joy in watching her because she was a pony getting to be a pony. Tail up, nose down, she was having a wonderful time.

Compare this to my afternoon, which was spent in the Palmer Courthouse. At 3 p.m. Animal Control Officer Darla Erskine briefed me and the other two witnesses on what we were to say and when we were to say it to the judge. This room was small, had white walls, and clear plastic sheeting going half way up the sides. I couldn’t help but think that there was considerable bad ju ju here.

Then the four of us trooped into courtroom #2. This was a small room, with no windows and several overhead lights. The air in this room was heavy, and with good reason. It was a room in which many have come to bear witness and many have come to plead their case. It’s a room in which people have had to avail themselves to a supposedly objective legal system. A room with questionable ju ju.

The supposedly neglectful horse owner was sitting at a table on the left hand side of the room. And her son was sitting in a chair on the right hand side of the room. Darla went and sat at a table across from her. One witness sat next to her. And the other sat next to me. The judge was sitting in his chair, and a clerk was sitting to his left, further down.

The horse owner had been issued five citations, two for dog neglect, and three for horse neglect. Officer Erskine first presented evidence in relation to the canine case, and then she presented evidence in relation to the first horse citation. And the witness sitting next to her then provided additional evidence. Next, Officer Erskine presented evidence in relation to the second and third horse citations.

After she spoke, I was asked to present my testimony.

I’d come prepared. I had a list of my horsey credentials, a written statement as to what horses need, and evidence in which by date, I listed what I saw as wrong doings. Then the other witnesses spoke. I got this sense as we three witnesses all spoke that we were educating the judge, as to what horses need – simplified, access to shelter, food, water, and ongoing care. We also went into considerable detail as to why horses need these things. For example, we all pointed out that horses must have ongoing access to hay in the winter, or else they will not be able to stay warm.

We provided far more information than the judge needed or wanted to hear. This is just human nature. We all can only take in so much at one time. I thought that later, he must have been wondrous that people could speak for such great lengths about such things. Well, all I can say is that horses are a big part of our lives, and it’s for this reason that we are so obsessed about things like gut motility and wound management practices.

Darla also gave the judge photos – of the area devoid of forage, of a horse that was overly thin, and of one of the horse’s badly injured and neglected legs.

What was most interesting about it all was that none of us directly cast aspersions on the horse owner’s character. There was no name calling or finger shaking. Rather, we cast aspersions indirectly, by using factual evidence to support our claim that her four horses were not getting proper care.

The horse owner, small, unbrushed blonde hair, wearing a black hoodie – sat alone until her son came up and sat next to her. They then spent considerable time whispering to one another.

The judge asked after each person spoke if she had questions for them. It was here that she could have questioned dates, places times, points of view. None of this was forthcoming. She did ask me if I knew that I’d been trespassing on her property, to which I said “this isn’t relevant to the case.” This, I immediately realized was the right thing to say. The judge concurred, saying the exact same thing.

There wasn’t enough time to finish up. Darla and witnesses had all spoken, leaving no time for the horse owner to defend herself or present any information to the contrary. She will do this on Thursday, February 6, at 3:30 p.m. The judge will hear her out. She may do this by phone, from the Kenai Peninsula, where she is now a home caretaker.

I’m thinking that she’s going to need to marshal her evidence and present a strong rationale for her horse care practices. I don’t think she can do this, in part because she’s been neglectful and in part because she doesn’t have the knowledge needed to care for horses properly.

The four horses are now down in the Kenai. Rumor has it they’re in bad shape. This bothers me, to a large part because I bonded with them when I was feeding them. They all have good dispositions, and were truly appreciative when I gave them hay and water.

The second witness said that she most likely will bypass going to the final part of this hearing. I said that I’d go – I’m curious to see how she’ll construct her rebuttal. Actually, this is giving her the benefit of the doubt since she doesn’t appear to have it together enough mentally to do anything but refute a given statement or two.

I am worried about the consequences of my actions. I hope that she and her son don’t do harm to my animals, who I love dearly. And I hope that they don’t attempt to sue me for trespassing.

Next: 35. 2/4/14: Horse Care: A Rationale for Neglect